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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

MT Picnickers Play Games, Dance

Despite the chilly weather and cloudy sky, some 170 people gathered for the second annual Moscow Times family picnic in Barvikha.

The picnic was held Saturday at a beautiful old mansion next to President Boris Yeltsin's favorite vacation spot just outside Moscow.

The 19th-century, Gothic-style mansion that everybody here calls a "castle" once belonged to Baron Meyendorf, who fled the country on the eve of World War I. Such celebrities as poets Sergei Yesenin and Alexander Blok visited Meyendorf in this residence. People who came to the picnic took an hour-long tour of the castle, which looks as if it came straight from the German Middle Ages with its high ceilings, tapestries, intricate balconies and massive, carved wooden doors.

For a decade the mansion has been part of the presidential sanatorium, and visitors could see Yeltsin's dacha overlooking a small lake from the lawn in front of the castle.

An expert mixed-drinks artist from the Bartenders' Association of Russia put on a performance as he created a special Moscow Times cocktail. He juggled with bottles of whiskey, gin and tequila, the contents of which were then mixed with cream and grape juice to make for a powerful concoction -- "as powerful as the paper itself," according to organizer Yevgenia Bragina.

Picnickers, who were from Russia and several foreign countries, feasted on barbecue and shashlyk, played soccer and volleyball, and rode horses. For children, there were two large playrooms and actors portraying a troll and a cat. The Razdolye folk group taught everybody to sing and play folk games.

Just as the band called Nyet Problem, struck the cords of Sunshine Reggae, the sun came out, the weather improved and everybody danced.